Education News

Earth Institute Sponsored Student Opportunities

2009-10-02

Each semester, The Earth Institute offers a variety of research assistant and intern opportunities for Columbia students. Please see below for 9 undergraduate research assistantship descriptions and 5 internship descriptions. Only full-time undergraduates are eligible to apply for research assistantships. All full-time Columbia University students are eligible to apply for internships. Please note the type of student requested for each position. Typically, research assistants and interns work 10 hours a week for 12 weeks at $15 dollars per hour.

Undergraduate Research Assistantships:

  1. Household Energy Technologies for Developing Countries
  2. Agroforestry Adoption for Developing Countries
  3. Examining the Millennium Villages through Peace and Conflict Lenses
  4. Linking Ecosystem Changes and Carbon Storage with Anthropogenic and Climatic Impacts in the Hudson River Wetlands using Marsh Sediments
  5. USGS National Biological Information Network (NBII) program
  6. Infrastructure Planning/Computer Modeling
  7. Modeling Landscape Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services for three Millennium Village Project Sites in Eastern Africa
  8. The Bamboo Bike Project
  9. Millennium Villages Project

    Internships:

  10. Developing web based mapping tools for the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment (ICAP)
  11. Climate and Malaria and Dengue Risk Prediction
  12. Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service Tradeoff Assessment in the Millennium Villages Project Urban design
  13. Deglacial History of East African River Systems


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1.    Household Energy Technologies for Developing Countries

Many of the world's poor rely on household lighting from inefficient and polluting household technologies for cooking and lighting. Among the world's poorest, traditional biomass fuels (firewood, dung, agricultural waste, etc.) are the dominant source of energy for most household cooking, while household lighting is primarily fuel-based.

Many families cook indoors using three-stone fires and other equipment and methods which expose family members to high levels of particulate matter.  Respiratory tract infections, which correlate strongly with particulate matter exposure, have been identified as the leading cause of death in children under five.  Meanwhile, fuel-based lighting technologies offer inefficient and poor-quality light, and kerosene expenditures constitute a major portion of poor family budgets.

More efficient stoves and portable electric lighting can offer dramatic improvements in the quality and quantity of energy services available to poor, rural households, and may also reduced costs if fuel is purchased.  Improved household energy technologies may also support income generating tasks or increases in labor productivity.

Key objectives related to this position will be the investigation of improved household energy technologies, including stoves with improved combustion and reduced emissions, and household electricity systems offering improved lighting or ICT services.

The position may involve the following or other related activities related to household energy technologies:

  • Literature review and web investigation
  • Testing and evaluation
  • Assist in planning field investigations or testing  programs
  • Survey design, revision  or review
  • Data analysis and report writing.

Applicants for this position should have had some coursework related to developing country energy issues, including cooking and household electricity use. Relevant research and/or field experience is a plus.
Experience in testing, evaluation or surveying related to household cookstoves or electricity systems is also advantageous.

This position is open to undergraduates only. To apply, students must provide a cover letter stating their interests and abilities along with a resume. Please submit application materials to Monika Kowalczykowski at mk2802@columbia.edu by noon on Friday, October 9th.


2.    Agroforestry Adoption for Developing Countries

Oil seed tree crops like Jatropha Curcas have been promoted as a sustainable cash crop for smallholder farmers in developing countries because of their ability to reduce erosion, grow on marginal land, and produce oilseeds that can be sold into biodiesel, soap manufacturing, and other markets.  Many questions still surround these types of energy crops and their potential as a development mechanism.
The key objective related to this position will be the investigation the farmer adoption mechanisms related to jatropha in Mali.

The position may involve the following:

  •  Literature review and web investigation
  • Household survey design, revision, review and implementation
  • Database creation and management
  • Statistical analysis
  • Geo-spatial analysis
  • Report writing

The preferred candidate will have the following skills:

  • French language skills
  • Successfully completed coursework related to:
    •   developing country energy issues
    •   statistics
    •  GIS
    •  agroforestry
  • Relevant research and/or field experience is a plus.
  • Experience in household survey work and database construction ormanagement a plus


This position is open to undergraduates only. To apply, students must provide a cover letter stating their interests and abilities along with a resume. Please submit application materials to Monika Kowalczykowski at mk2802@columbia.edu by noon on Friday, October 9th.


3.    Examining the Millennium Villages through Peace and Conflict Lenses

Earlier this year, quantitative baseline data was collected in project and comparison communities in Liberia, at the outset of the Kokoyah Millennium Villages project.  Surveys asked participants about social cohesion - trust, collective action, networks, conflict and conflict management. The "Mayange" Rwanda MV is currently in its third program year.  Qualitative research will be conducted in the village this fall to gather information on the experience of change over the past several years and respondent's views and understandings of if, and how, the MV project has contributed to fostering social cohesion and/or divisions.
The Research Assistant is to participate in all phases of research, including:

  • Cleaning and analyzing quantitative data from Liberia
  • Background research and planning for qualitative research in Rwanda and Liberia
  • Possible minimal transcription of qualitative interview data from Rwanda
  • Background research and fact-finding relating to social cohesion, community-driven development, and conflict in sub-Saharan Africa for anticipated publications on the current state of social cohesion in Liberia and on the MV in Rwanda.

Desired skills, experience & academic interests:

  • Training or related experience with statistics (especially Stata)
  • Strong excel skills and familiarity with MS word
  • Strong research skills
  • Detail-oriented
  • Interest (and preferably some experience researching or reading about) development, conflict and peacebuilding in sub-Saharan Africa
  • Training in political science and French language skills but would be assets, but are not required.

This position is open to undergraduates only. To apply, students must provide a cover letter stating their interests and abilities along with a resume. Please submit application materials to Monika Kowalczykowski at mk2802@columbia.edu by noon on Friday, October 9th.


4.    Linking Ecosystem Changes and Carbon Storage with Anthropogenic and Climatic Impacts in the Hudson River Wetlands using Marsh Sediments

The research assistant would assist in the collection and analysis of both new and archived sediment cores in order to assess sediment property and the role of certain elements, including heavy metals, to gain a better understanding of watershed climate and environmental history archived in Hudson marsh sediments.  Analyses involve the use of the recently acquired handheld X-ray fluorescence spectrometer (XRF). We are interested in assessing: 1) Regional and local climatic and land use changes by looking at the changes in elemental composition and elemental ratios (e.g. Zn, Ti, K), 2) Heavy metal inventories and metals chronology in the marshes - (e.g., Pb, Cu, Zn, Cd), 3) Organic/inorganic matter content and physical property of the sediment to estimate carbon inventory in Hudson River wetlands.

A research assistant can expect to gain solid experience in and provide valuable assistance with several phases of core collection, processing, and dating. Acquired analytical techniques would include physical sediment analyses (water content, organic content, matrix density, etc.), XRF spectrometry for major and trace element, gamma spectroscopy for the analysis of natural and man-made radionuclides, as well as data processing and interpretation.  If students are willing, to they can also summarize data and methods he or she works on in the form of concise written reports to gain an invaluable experience in scientific writing.  Such information will be integral to the published manuscripts from this research. Additionally, depending on the student's interest, he or she could assist with integrating geochemical and geophysical data or assembling our data into a user-accessible GIS database. Field work is an integral part of this project.

Desired skills: Common sense, good laboratory skills, mechanically inclined, willingness to work carefully and hard, some data analysis background would be helpful, but is not necessary. All of the analytical work will take place at Lamont, and the field work will take place at various marsh locations within the watershed and may entail day-long sampling trips.

This position is open to undergraduates only. To apply, students must provide a cover letter stating their interests and abilities along with a resume. Please submit application materials to Monika Kowalczykowski at mk2802@columbia.edu by noon on Friday, October 9th.


5.    USGS National Biological Information Network (NBII) program

The Center for International Earth Science Information Network
(CIESIN) is seeking a Research Assistant for its USGS National Biological Information Network (NBII) program. CIESIN is the lead partner with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) on the development and management of the NBII Northeast Information Node. The Northeast Information Node gives users - educators, resource managers, researchers, and the general public - easy access to the environmental and biological data resources and analysis tools they need to better understand, utilize, and protect the natural resources of this region.
Our scope is broad: from cataloging the health of New York City's urban ecology to helping researchers and public officials build sustainable practices for the forests of Maine. We are currently engaged in partnerships with the National Park Service, University of Connecticut, Wildlife Trust and the Center for Environmental Research and Conservation at Columbia University along !
     with many other state agencies and non-profit groups.

Potential responsibilities:

  • Gather species of highest priority from State Wildlife Action Plans for use in the development of species of interest web profiles.
  • Gather and implement RSS feeds into NBII NIN home page.
  • Review/update content (text, links, maps) of Theme sections: Climate, Ecology [Flora, Fauna], Maps & Geospatial Data, Water.
  • Develop content (text, links, maps) of new section "Special Focus Areas" to include Human Dynamics, Forests, Rivers, Species in Need, Invasives.
  • Maintain catalog records and NIN linkages in compliance with Validator reports; receive metadata catalog tool training
  • Review/update NIN Factsheet to reflect current activities
  • Produce maps from datasets currently in the NBII share

This position offers an exciting opportunity to discover the variety of environmental research being conducted in one of our nation's most visited national parks, have direct contact with the scientist doing this research, and to be involved in the creation of an information system that makes the data and findings of this research available to a wide community of users. The assistant will attend meetings and seminars, and conduct site visits to acquire information on programs, projects, datasets, metadata, and publications and then work with CIESIN staff to compile this information into the JBRMIN information management system.

This position is open to undergraduates only. To apply, students must provide a cover letter stating their interests and abilities along with a resume. Please submit application materials to Monika Kowalczykowski at mk2802@columbia.edu by noon on Friday, October 9th.


6.    Infrastructure Planning/Computer Modeling

The intern will work as part of a team to develop an infrastructure planning system that uses geospatial inputs and mathematical cost models to guide infrastructure expansion, e.g. electricity grid expansion and facility location.  This infrastructure planning system is being designed up from previous and ongoing research in rural electrification.  The rationale for the system is to provide a tool for students and professionals to make better informed, more equitable, and timely decisions in infrastructure planning and service delivery.

The intern will work on the core functionality of the infrastructure planning system, with guidance from other developers and users.
Specifically, the intern will help develop functions to model key inputs, such as, population growth and demand, of the system. As the system has a geospatial component, the intern may also be involved in designing web-based geospatial user interfaces in addition to assisting in documenting the development of the system.
Candidates interested in international development, energy planning, econometrics, geographic information systems, and Python programming are encouraged to apply.  Candidates must have a strong applied mathematical background as the work involves implementing econometric models into code.

Required Experience:  Strong applied mathematical background (experience designing models), Successfully completed coursework related to: Applied mathematics & programming, Experience developing software using Python, numpy, scipy & matplotlib, Experience working with Geographic Information Systems, OpenLayers &, AJAX (preferred but not required).

This position is open to undergraduates only. To apply, students must provide a cover letter stating their interests and abilities along with a resume. Please submit application materials to Monika Kowalczykowski at mk2802@columbia.edu by noon on Friday, October 9th.


7.    The Bamboo Bike Project (Earth Institute Earth Clinic Project

Brief description of anticipated intern tasks: Assist in the development of the implementation phase of the project especially in the maintenance of communications through web sites, blogs articles etc.  Will involve participation in and promotion of the project.  May involve assistance in the preparation of manuscripts for publication including a potential book project.

Skills Required: Communication and writing skills essential, conversant with web publishing

This position is open to undergraduates only. To apply, students must provide a cover letter stating their interests and abilities along with a resume. Please submit application materials to Monika Kowalczykowski at mk2802@columbia.edu by noon on Friday, October 9th.

 

8.    Millennium Villages Project

The Monitoring and Evaluation team at the Earth Institute (EI) has initiated a process evaluation of the (MVP). The MVP is a joint intuitive of the Earth Institute and the United Nations Development Project aimed to help poor countries reach the Millennium Development Goals.
The Process Evaluation will run from September 2009-July 2010. The methods used will be qualitative, comprising a series of structured and semi-structured interviews and focus groups with stakeholders in New York, Uganda, Ghana, Mali and Nigeria. The results of the process evaluation will feed into concurrent efforts to evaluate the impact, performance, relevance and sustainability of the MVP model.

Principle Investigators require one part-time assistant who will be able to provide a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 20 hours a week. The support is required immediately, with the potential to extend work for the duration of the project.

Brief description of anticipated intern tasks:

  • Literature review
  • Transcribing interviews
  • Data/literature/information searches
  • Follow up on interviews and take notes

The research assistant will be required to do one or more of the following:

  • Transcribe taped interview recordings into word documents.
  • Assist the coding of interview transcripts in the NVIVO software package.
  • On occasion, and as need demands, assist in conducting literature reviews, proofing and editing documents, and providing administrative assistance.

Assistants are not required to have prior knowledge of NVIVO software, although experience with processing and analyzing qualitative data would be useful.

Skills Required: Literature searches, ability to write in English, analytical thinking.

This position is open to undergraduates only. To apply, students must provide a cover letter stating their interests, experience, background, and availability along with a resume. Please submit application materials to Monika Kowalczykowski at mk2802@columbia.edu by noon on Friday, October 9th.

9.    Developing web based mapping tools for the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment (ICAP)

Brief description of anticipated intern tasks: The Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) is working in partnership with the Mailman School of Public Health's International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment (ICAP) Monitoring, Evaluation and Research team to track the progress of ICAP facilities in 11 Sub-Saharan African countries as part of an Integrated Surveillance System for AIDS monitoring and control operations. This system serves as a foundation to organize field clinic information, monitor and assess program operations and analyze and plan for future growth of ICAP programs.
The ISS plays a fundamental role in such tasks as evaluating clinic performance, determining clinic needs, allocating resources and determining optimal location for new stations.

The intern will assist with:

  • Mapping the locations of field clinics and placing them in the context of their surrounding physical and socioeconomic environments.
    • Core evaluation maps showing enrollment in antiretroviral treatment, proportion of women receiving full course of ARV prophylaxis, proportion screened for tuberculosis, proportion screened for HIV and Voluntary counseling sites as well maps of all ICAP-supported sites by type (HIV care and treatment, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, Tuberculosis/HIV care and treatment, Early Infant Diagnosis, Laboratory).
  • Mapping the locations of other non-ICAP HIV/AIDS clinics within the region.
  • Determining catchments area for each clinic.
  • Researching current HIV prevalence data.


Skills Required: The intern will be involved with compiling datasets and creating maps to support the project. The ideal candidate should have an interest in the application of information technologies in environmental health sciences and public health research and will have experience in Geographic Information Systems, managing databases and must have excellent writing and speaking skills.

This position is open to undergraduates only. To apply, students must provide a cover letter stating their interests and abilities along with a resume. Please submit application materials to Monika Kowalczykowski at mk2802@columbia.edu by noon on Friday, October 9th.

 

10.    Climate and Malaria and Dengue Risk Prediction

A research assistant is needed to contribute to a project on climate relationships with malaria risk at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI). This is a cross-disciplinary project that aims at harnessing scientific expertise in climate and environmental sciences to prototype a Malaria / Dengue early warning system for optimizing the use of limited resources in Sri Lanka and Botswana.  A variety of epidemiological information has been obtained from our project partners, the Sri Lanka Ministry of Health's Anti-Malaria Campaign and the Botswana Ministry of Health. This project shall provide good exposure to the student in environmental risk management in tropical settings.

Brief description of anticipated intern tasks:

  • Undertake the management of climate and epidemiological data in the IRI data library
  • Diagnose relationships between climate and morbidity
  • Develop prediction models
  • Document findings

Skills Required: Either skills or aptitude to learn rapidly in addition to the following:

  • Statistical analysis
  • Programming
  • Quantitative manipulation
  • Writing
  • Graphics, GIS and document preparation
  • Familiarity with basics of Atmospheric Sciences or Hydrology
  • Familiarity with basics of Epidemiology

To apply, students must provide a cover letter stating their interests and abilities along with a resume. Please submit application materials to Monika Kowalczykowski at mk2802@columbia.edu by noon on Friday, October 9th


11.    Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service Tradeoff Assessment in the Millennium Villages Project

Brief description of anticipated intern tasks:
The intern will help develop a model to assess the relationship between vegetation biodiversity and ecosystem services across the landscapes of three Millennium Villages in East Africa.  Specifically the intern will assist in:

  • Analyzing remote sensing data
  • Preparing economic assessments of carbon sequestration
  • Developing plant species trait and function databases
  • Analyzing biodiversity data
  • Parameterizing an ecosystem process model

Skills Required:

  • Basic statistics
  • Knowledge of remote sensing, GIS or economics is a plus

To apply, students must provide a cover letter stating their interests and abilities along with a resume. Please submit application materials to Monika Kowalczykowski at mk2802@columbia.edu by noon on Friday, October 9th.


12.    Urban design

The Urban Design Lab is the organization within the Earth Institute that connects the University's experts in a number of fields related to the urban environment with dedicated students and communities in New York City and elsewhere. The Urban Design Lab conducts projects for community-based and other stakeholder organizations attempting to shape development in their home neighborhoods.

Brief description of anticipated intern tasks: The Urban Design Lab is currently pursuing projects in the formative stages, focusing on green and sustainable infrastructure and climate change adaptation.  With the pressures of rapid and dramatic development in some parts of the United States, and local concerns about maintaining and upgrading our crumbling infrastructure systems, the need to address the various aspects of renewable and sustainable infrastructure is more important than ever before. The Research Assistant will support the project by developing and producing suggestive designs to create and expand green infrastructure at neighborhood to regional scales.  A unique component of this research may be related support for a proposal to study the infrastructure of the future - materials, forms, and purposes - as it evolves by 2060.

Additional work may include project support to research on how New York neighborhoods within Washington Heights and Harlem can adapt to climate change, outlining urban typologies and site specific areas which are threatened by changes in the environment and identifying sound strategies for the community.  The intern may also contribute, on an "as needed" basis, to additional projects of the Lab, to include a study of New York City's urban agriculture.  A final task will be to help update the Lab's website.

Skills Required: Candidate must have a design background, display strong verbal and writing skills and be able to aid in preparing public presentations. Knowledge on Geographic Information System (GIS), Adobe Creative Suite, Word and Powerpoint PC software is necessary. A portfolio of previous work is required for the interview.
A graduate student is desired.

To apply, students must provide a cover letter stating their interests and abilities along with a resume. Please submit application materials to Monika Kowalczykowski at mk2802@columbia.edu by noon on Thursday, October 8th


13.    Deglacial History of East African River Systems

Brief description of anticipated intern tasks: Intern will participate in a new study to use deep-sea sediment cores to estimate past changes in East African climate. The student will identify cores from the river mouth areas of largest East African drainage systems (Zambezi, Tana, Jubba, Limpopo, and Rufiji Rivers) for sampling. They will then sample these sediment cores and prepare them for identification and extraction of planktonic foram shells. These shells will then be cleaned and analyzed for Mg/Ca and stable isotopic analyses. Data will be used to calculate ocean temperature and salinity changes associated with past climate changes in the region.

Skills Required: Careful attention to detail, some previous microscope work helpful (dissection scope), a steady hand, and patience. Some analytical chemistry experience is a plus, but not required.

To apply, students must provide a cover letter stating their interests and abilities along with a resume. Please submit application materials to Monika Kowalczykowski at mk2802@columbia.edu by noon on Friday, October 9th.